So this is the first of my ‘open house’ blogs that I am receiving from people who would like to share their unique experiences. Due to the exceptional circumstances that we are facing with the virus, I am aware that many people would like to share the things they are facing. Mostly, these are people that don’t normally write, and are not regularly on social media either.
I was contacted recently by Doctor Fareeha Faisal @fareehaf who is an NHS doctor specialising in dermatolgy. Like most staff on the ‘front line,’ Fareeha sees some very difficult cases. She particularly wanted to share the below example.
“It was 1pm. I was 30 minutes ahead of my schedule, parked my car in on-call doctor’s bay and started walking to my room. I suddenly stopped in the waiting area after seeing J sat there. J, I called him, he didn’t move. J, I said a bit louder this time. He looked at me; dead, expressionless eyes, he looked lost.
Two years ago, I met J, 58 years old fit and healthy businessman, six foot tall, eyes, bright and full of life with great sense of humour. “I’ve come to see my doctor,” he stepped inside my clinic for the first time with big smile on his face. Yes, please come in I smiled back. “You are too young to be a doctor?” He kept smiling, “I am here for my MOT doc.”
Second flashback hit my memory lane harder. “Doc, can you check this new spot on my leg?” Six months ago I saw him. “I am afraid we need to remove this for a definitive diagnosis.” I paused, breaking bad news is the worse part of my job. Killer words of ruthless doctor, people tell me at times. “What for?” He was shocked. “This might be Melanoma, a skin cancer” I replied.
“You may be wrong?” His voice started to fade away. “I do hope to be wrong, J,” my voice was low. The next four weeks changed his entire life, as he went through many surgeries for metastatic melanoma with a worse prognosis.
“J, you ok,” my thoughts were interrupted. “I am here to see the cancer nurse. The pain is killing me. I am dying Doc!” His terrified voice I felt in my spine. “Come with me,” I took him to my clinic room. He burst into tears. A six foot man was broken into pieces. I was quiet. After 15 min, he lifted his head up, apologetic for taking my time without a formal appointment.
“J, let me help you!” I called few colleagues, he kept watching silently. I sat next to him, Is there anything else I can do for you? “What can you do for me Doc?” anger burst in his voice suddenly. “I am here for you J,” I looked into his eyes. “It’s coming to an end, quicker than I thought,” he said hopelessly. “Life doesn’t come with a clear expiry date J” I said, he looked puzzled.
“My father told me once its not how we die but how we live,” I saw the fear start to disappear from his eyes. “How would I know if I’d live more than you, no one knows?” I kept talking. “Hope is bigger than fear, so are you and I. Anyone can die before death but few face death”.
“I can’t give you what is beyond my reach, but I can stay with you. Together we’ll fight,” I paused. He started sobbing; I stroked the back of his hand, silent as rock. 10 minutes passed like 10 decades. A man was given a death sentence and I just told him its ok. Then shared my death sentence with him as well. The only difference was mine had no estimated date written by then.
“Shall I get you some water J?” He nodded. I stepped out for few minutes. “You are the first person who said that?” He started to talk clearly. Time for your MOT now, I recalled our first appointment. You have a lion’s heart doc, we both smiled.
The following year was tough! Cancer took so much away from him but not his resilience and smile. He was in the hospice when I met him last. “You look sad, did you have a good holiday” he asked? He looked into my eyes, “one of my best friend passed away in a car accident,” I looked down. “Focus on how she lived, doc, together we’ll fight,” He smiled at me. J passed away peacefully later that night. But the man with the lion’s heart legacy lives on!
I can’t explain how happy I feel that I have been able to share this very powerful but sad story. Unfortunately this is the reality of life, and we can sometimes forget that there are people that give bad news to others every day.I have found writing very cathartic. If you would like to share your own views and experiences from these challenging times, please feel free to get in touch. Front line NHS, recently unemployed, home schooling with the kids or a person struggling to get treated because COVID19 has taken over? Everyone is welcome to this open house!!